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Use Safari's privacy features when surfing the web

A new feature has appeared in many recently updated web browsers and that is private web browsing. Normally web browsers store a wide range of information about what you do, where you go, what you access, and what you see on the web.

They store web pages you have viewed in a cache on the disk drive, they remember the website addresses you type in, they store usernames and passwords and other information you enter into forms, and they store cookies, which are files containing information about you.

Normally, this isn't a problem and quite often it is useful. It means that web pages can be dispayed faster because they are in the disk cache, form fields can be filled in automatically, the URL you want to go to can be guessed before you have finished typing, and so on. However, this information is also available to anyone that has access to your computer and that's not always a good idea. If you use a computer in a public place like a cybercafe or a hotel - some provide them - you don't want the next person that uses the computer to be able to view your web history. And if you have computers at work that anyone can access you don't want people to see your web history. It makes sense to use private browsing when you access online stores, auctions, banks and other financial institutions.

When a web browser's private browsing mode is turned on all the usual information gets stored, but the difference it is only temporary and when you quit the browser, everything is wiped leaving no traces. This does not affect anything that is stored in normal browsing mode.

Enabling private browsing mode in Safari is easy. Click the Safari menu and then select Private Browsing. Just quit Safari when you are finished. The next time you start Safari it will be back in mormal browsing mode.

Reset SafariThere are some other useful options that can be used to cover your tracks instead of using private browsing mode. Click the Safari menu and select Empty Cache. This erases all the web pages that the browser has stored. It's safe and it doesn't affect anything.

A much more powerful privacy option is to choose Safari and then Reset Safari. The tick boxes enable you to clear everything that Safari stores.

Two things that you might want to keep - by clearing the tick boxes - are cookies and saved names and passwords. Cookies are often useful and websites use them to store information, like your favourite music at a music store, your account details at a book store, favourite videos at a video sharing site, and so on. If you clear all the cookies the sites won't know anything about you and you'll be like a new user. (Sometimes this is useful though.)

Instead of clearing all cookies, you should skip them in the Reset Safari list. Instead, click Safari, Preferences and choose Security. Click the Show Cookies button. All the cookies are displayed and the first column shows which website stored them. You can select the cookies you don't want, such as anything with ad, advert, and advertising in the name, and remove them.

There's so much cookie junk though, you might find it simpler to press Command+A to select them all and then Command+click the ones you want to keep by deselecting them. There are few that are important. Cookies can store website login information, so make sure you know all your usernames and passwords before you delete the cookie for the website.

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